Saying good-bye to my sister and singing hymns and drinking wine


It rained. A steady yet gentle rain came straight down on the cemetery, wrapping it in privacy. Discreet sign reminded us to social distance. We made our way slowly toward the place where we would say good-bye to her. There was the usual covering over the grave site but no chairs. There was no escape from the reminders of COVID-19. At first we paused at the edges of the shelter with our umbrellas, as if afraid to get to close to each other. Gradually we moved in just enough to get out of the drizzling wetness. Some stayed along the edges with umbrellas still up to keep them dry. It was a private service with less than two dozen people attending. Masks hid our smiles but not our tears. Ours is a hugging family; we hug when we first meet; we hug when we leave. Not many hugs on that day.

No minister. Service led by her granddaughter. A prayer, a bible reading. Poetry readings. One written by the granddaughter. One written by my sister to be read at her service. A hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven” sung by Alan Jackson, played on a small speaker. Each of us placed a white rose beside her urn and a spray of flowers.   A prayer. We left in the rain. I will miss her bright spirit.

BARBARA ANN MITCHELL
1935 – 2020

Pre-pandemic we would have gathered after the service at a church or a home for food and fellowship. Not today. Daughter and Son came home with Husband and me. We sat in the living room, silently at first, as we drank wine. Bottles of cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay had been opened. Talk of hymns. I was too far out of practice to play any on my out-of-tune piano, so Son called up hymns from his phone and played them on the small speaker used for the service. Daughter, Son and I sang along across the room from each other. So many memories. Don’t attend church these days but I knew the words to every song called out. Husband must have thought the three of us were a little crazy. Wine and hymns? In the pandemic of 2020 it seemed an acceptable thing to do when you lose someone. 

 

MY SISTER AND ME
circa 1948